Why “Superman: The Movie” Isn’t All That Great


I re-watched the original Christopher Reeve Superman last weekend. Superman: The Movie was a classic according to my memory, but watching it again made me notice the stuff in the film that didn’t work. Maybe it’s because I’ve become elitist and bitter, but is it me, or is this movie not all that great? HEAR ME OUT, HYPER-REACTIVE NERDS!

I still really like the film, for the most part. I still think Christopher Reeve was the best Superman, and Margot Kidder’s pretty great, especially compared to Kate Bosworth’s whatever-the-hell-that-was in Superman Returns. The best part of the movie, and the reason I think so many people remember it fondly, is John Williams’ Superman theme. I remember we played it at my Uncle John’s funeral last year in his honor, and I was exhilarated and devastated in equal measure. It’s as triumphant and inspiring as Superman himself is supposed to be. You could play that music over a picture of a ball of poop and it would still be awesome.  And yet, despite the iconic score, the film itself is not as good as it should be, and not nearly as good as Bryan Singer thought it was when he ripped it off for his failed reboot. My complaints:

Gene Hackman’s Luthor Blows.  As I understand it, Lex Luthor is an evil super-genius that eventually became President. Hackman’s Luthor is more like a shady real estate guy who’s dressed like he’s doing a guest spot on The Love Boat. He also has two comedic sidekicks, Otis and MISS TESCHMACHER (a joke that never gets funny, btw), but Hackman’s Luthor is such a goof, he doesn’t need to be weighed down by more goofs. At no point does he feel like the supervillain he’s supposed to be. He’s just a third-rate con man that somehow made enough money to build an underground lair in a Metropolis subway.

Marlon Brando Blows Worser Than Hackman’s Previously Mentioned Blowsiness. After Last Tango In Paris, Brando pretty much stopped giving a damn, and in Superman: The Movie, it shows. As Superman’s dad Jor-El, Brando puts on a crappy semi-British accent and apathetically mumbles his way through the performance. It’s one of the worst do-it-for-the-paycheck performances of all time, right up there with, well, Brando in Apocalypse Now. Brando’s such a humorless rambly goof in both films that he single-handedly brings them down a notch. It’s rather well-known that Brando never knew his lines, and he would paste them up all over the set so he could glance at them during the take. In Superman, you can actually see him doing it. He also calls Krypton “CRIP-tun.” It’s never a good sign when the man that spawned the last great hope for humanity can’t pronounce the name of his home planet.

Worst. Deus Ex Machina. Ever.  I think it’s always been known that Superman’s plan of flying around the Earth until he reverses time is ridiculous, but it’s so damn stupid that it kills the ending. I wish that while Superman was whirling around the planet, the filmmakers cut to what was happening on Earth, showing the planet fall apart as it tilts off its axis, with stuff crashing everywhere, culminating in an appearance by Donald Sutherland as The Clumsy Waiter. Instead, the Earth stays intact, and Superman successfully pushes the reset button. So dumb. SO DUMB.

It’s not a great movie, but it’s certainly an influential one, the movie that helped jumpstart the comic book movie summer phenomenon. Seeing as how every movie this year is either a sequel or a crappy comic book movie, maybe that’s not a good thing.

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